Big Data Is a Big Mess

January 18, 2017

Big Data and Cloud Computing were supposed to make things easier for the C-Suites to take billion dollar decisions. But it seems things have started to fall apart.

In an article published by Forbes titled The Data Warehouse Has Failed, Will Cloud Computing Die Next?, the author says:

A company that sells software tools designed to put intelligence controls into data warehousing environments says that traditional data warehousing approaches are flaky. Is this just a platform to spin WhereScape wares, or does Whitehead have a point?

WhereScape, a key player in Data Warehousing is admitting that the buzzwords in the IT industry are fizzing out. The Big Data is being generated, in abundance, but companies still are unsure what to do with the enormous amount of data that their companies produce.

Large corporations who already have invested heavily in Big Data are yet to find any RoIs. As the author points out:

Data led organizations have no idea how good their data is. CEOs have no idea where the data they get actually comes from, who is responsible for it etc. yet they make multi million pound decisions based on it. Big data is making the situation worse not better.

Looks like after 3D-Printing, another buzzword in the tech world, Big Data and Cloud Computing is going to be just a fizzled out buzzword.

Vishal Ingole, January 18, 2017

On-Demand Business Model Not Sure Cash Flow

December 23, 2016

The on-demand car service Uber established a business model that startups in Silicon Valley and other cities are trying to replicate.  These startups are encountering more overhead costs than they expected and are learning that the on-demand economy does not generate instant cash flow.  The LA Times reports that, “On-Demand Business Models Have Put Some Startups On Life Support.”

Uber uses a business model revolving around independent contractors who use their own vehicles as a taxi service that responds to individual requests.  Other startups have sprung up around the same on-demand idea, but with a variety of services.  These include flower delivery service BloomThat, on-demand valet parking Zirx, on-demand meals Spoonrocket, and housecleaning with Homejoy.  The problem these on-demand startups are learning is that they have to deal with overhead costs, such as renting storage spaces, parking spaces, paying for products, delivery vehicles, etc.

Unlike Uber, which relies on the independent contractor to cover the costs of vehicles, other services cannot rely on the on-demand business model due to the other expenses.  The result is that cash is gushing out of their companies:

It’s not just companies that are waking up to the fact being “on-demand” doesn’t guarantee success — the investor tide has also turned.  As the downturn leads to more cautious investment, on-demand businesses are among the hardest-hit; funding for such companies fell in the first quarter of this year to $1.3 billion, down from $7.3 billion six months ago.  ‘If you look in venture capital markets, the on-demand sector is definitely out of favor,’ said Ajay Chopra, a partner at Trinity Ventures who is an investor in both Gobble and Zirx.

These new on-demand startups have had to change their business models in order to remain in business and that requires dismantling the on-demand service model.  On-demand has had its moment in the sun and will remain a lucrative model for some services, but until we invent instant teleportation most companies cannot run on that model.

Whitney Grace, December 23, 2016

Potential Tor Browser Vulnerability Reported

December 19, 2016

Over at Hacker Noon, blogger “movrcx” reveals a potential vulnerability chain that he says threatens the entire Tor Browser ecosystem in, “Tor Browser Exposed: Anti-Privacy Implantation at Mass Scale.” Movrcx says the potential avenue for a massive hack has existed for some time, but taking advantage of these vulnerabilities would require around $100,000. This could explain why movrcx’s predicted attack seems not to have taken place. Yet. The write-up summarizes the technique:

Anti-Privacy Implantation at Mass Scale: At a high-level the attack path can be described by the following:

*Attacker gains custody of an addons.mozilla.org TLS certificate (wildcard preferred)

*Attacker begins deployment of malicious exit nodes

*Attacker intercepts the NoScript extension update traffic for addons.mozilla.org

*Attacker returns a malicious update metadata file for NoScript to the requesting Tor Browser

*The malicious extension payload is downloaded and then silently installed without user interaction

*At this point remote code execution is gained

*The attacker may use an additional stage to further implant additional software on the machine or to cover any signs of exploitation

This attack can be demonstrated by using Burp Suite and a custom compiled version of the Tor Browser which includes a hardcoded root certificate authority for transparent man-in-the-middle attacks.

See the article for movrcx’s evidence, reasoning, and technical details. He emphasizes that he is revealing this information in the hope that measures will be taken to nullify the potential attack chain. Preferably before some state or criminal group decides to invest in leveraging it.

Cynthia Murrell, December 19, 2016

A Crisis of Confidence

December 14, 2016

I remember a time, long ago, when my family was confident that newspapers and TV reporters were telling us most of the objective facts most of the time. We also had faith that, though flawed human beings, most  representatives in Congress were honestly working hard for (what they saw as) positive change. Such confidence, it seems, has gone the way of pet rocks and parachute pants. The Washington Examiner reports, “Fishwrap: Confidence in Newspapers, TV News Hits Bottom.” The brief write-up gives the highlights of a recent Gallup survey. Writer Paul Bedard tells us:

Gallup found that just 20 percent have confidence in newspapers, a 10-point drop in 10 years. TV news saw an identical 10-point drop, from 31 percent to 21 percent. But it could be worse. Of all the institutions Gallup surveyed on, Congress is at the bottom, with just 9 percent having confidence in America’s elected leaders, a finding that is clearly impacting the direction and tone of the 2016 elections. And Americans aren’t putting their faith in religion. Gallup found that confidence in organized religion dropped below 50 percent, to an all-time low of 41 percent.

Last decade’s financial crisis, the brunt of which many are still feeling, has prompted us to also lose faith in our banks (confidence dropped from 49 percent in 2006 to just 27 percent this year). There is one institution in which Americans still place our confidence—the military. Some 73 percent of are confident of that institution, a level that has been constant over the last decade. Could that have anything to do with the outsized share of tax revenue that segment consistently rakes in? Nah, that can’t be it.

Cynthia Murrell, December 14, 2016

The One Percent Have Privately Disappeared

December 8, 2016

People like to think that their lives are not always monitored, especially inside their domiciles.  However, if you have installed any type of security camera, especially a baby monitor, the bad news is that they are easily hacked.  Malware can also be downloaded onto a computer to spy on you through the built-in camera.  Mark Zuckerberg  coves his laptop’s camera with a piece of electrical tape.  With all the conveniences to spy on the average individual, it is not surprising that the rich one percent are literally buying their privacy by disappearing.  FT.com takes a look about, “How The Super-Rich Are Making Their Homes ‘Invisible.’”

The article opens with a description about how an entire high-end California neighborhood exists, but it is digitally “invisible” on Google Street View.  Celebrities live in this affluent California neighborhood and the management company does not even give interviews.  Privacy is one of the greatest luxuries one can buy in this age and the demand will grow as mobile Internet usages increases.  The use of cameras is proportional to Internet usage.

People who buy privacy by hiding their homes want to avoid prying eyes, such a paparazzi and protect themselves from burglars.  The same type of people who buy privacy are also being discreet about their wealth.  They do not flaunt it, unlike previous eras.  In the business sector, more and more clients want to remain anonymous so corporations are creating shell businesses to protect their identities.

There is an entire market for home designs that hide the actual building from prying eyes.  The ultimate way to disappear, however, is to live off the grid:

For extra stealth, property owners can take their homes off the grid — generating their own electricity and water supply avoids tell-tale pipes and wires heading on to their land. Self-sufficient communities have become increasingly popular for privacy, as well as ecological, reasons; some estimates suggest that 180,000 households are living off the grid in the US alone.

Those people who live off the grid will also survive during a zombie apocalypse, but I digress.

It is understandable that celebrities and others in the public eye require more privacy than the average citizen, but we all deserve the same privacy rights.  But it brings up another question: information needs to be found in order to be used.  Why should some be able to disappear while others cannot?

Whitney Grace, December 8, 2016

Sugar Polluted Scientific Research

October 19, 2016

If your diet includes too much sugar, it is a good idea to cut back on the amount you consume.  If also turns out if you have too much sugar in your research, the sugar industry will bribe you to hide the facts.  Stat News reports that even objective academic research is not immune from corporate bribes in the article, “Sugar Industry Secretly Paid For Favorable Harvard Research.”

In the 1960s, Harvard nutritionists published two reviews in medical journals that downplayed the role sugar played in coronary heart disease.  The sugar industry paid Harvard to report favorable results in scientific studies.  Dr. Cristin Kearns published a paper in JAMA Internal Medicine about her research into the Harvard sugar conspiracy.

Through her research, she discovered that Harvard nutrionists Dr. Fredrick Stare and Mark Hegsted worked with the Sugar Research Foundation to write a literature review that countered early research that linked sucrose to coronary heart disease.  This research would later help the sugar industry increase its market share by convincing Americans to eat a low-fat diet.

Dr. Walter Willett, who knew Hegsted and now runs the nutrition department at Harvard’s public health school, defended him as a principled scientist…‘However, by taking industry funding for the review, and having regular communications during the review with the sugar industry,’ Willett acknowledged, it ‘put him [Hegsted] in a position where his conclusions could be questioned. It is also possible that these relationships could induce some subtle bias, even if unconscious,’ he added.

In other words, corporate funded research can skew scientific data so that it favors their bottom dollar.  This fiasco happened in the 1960s, have things gotten worse or better?  With the big competition for funding and space in scientific journals, the answer appears to be yes.

Whitney Grace, October 19, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

You Too Can Be an Expert Searcher

October 4, 2016

One would think that in the days of instant information, we all would be expert searchers and know how to find any fact.  The problem is that most people type entire questions into search engines and allow natural language processing to do the hard labor.  There is a smarter way to search than lazy question typing and Geek Squad has an search literacy guide you might find useful: “Search Engine Secrets: Find More With Google’s Hidden Features.”

What very few people know (except us search gurus) is that search engines have hidden tricks you can use you find your results quicker and make search easier.  While Google is the standard search engine and all these tricks are geared towards that search engine, they will also work with other ones.  The standard way to search is by typing a query into the search bar and some of these typing tricks are old school, such as using parentheses for an exact phrase, searching one specific Web site, wildcards, Boolean operators, and using a minus sigh (-) to exclude terms.

Searching for pictures is a much newer search form and is usually done by clicking on the image search on a search engine.  However, did you know that most search engines have the option to search with an image itself?  With Google, simply drag and drop an image into the search bar to start the process.  There are also delimiters on image search to filter results by specifics, such as GIFs, size, color, and others

Even newer than image search is vocal search with a microphone.  Usually, voice search is employed with a digital assistant like Cortana and Siri.  Some voice search commands are:

  •  Find a movie: What movies are playing tonight? or Where’s Independence Day playing?
  • Find nearby places: Where’s the closest cafe?
  • Find the time: What time is it in Melbourne?
  • Answer trivia questions: Where was Albert Einstein born? or How old is Beyonce?
  • Translate words or phrases: How do you say milk in Spanish?
  • Define a word: What does existentialism mean?
  • Convert between units: What’s 16 ounces in grams?
  • Solve a math problem: What’s the square root of 2,209?

Book a restaurant table: Book a table for two at Dorsia on Wednesday night.

The only problem is that only the typing tricks transfer to professional research.  They are used at universities, research institutes, and even large companies.  The biggest problem is that people do not know how to use them in those organizations.

Whitney Grace, October 4, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Revenue Takes a Backseat to Patent Filings at IBM

September 9, 2016

The post on Slashdot titled IBM Has Been Awarded an Average of 24 Patents Per Day So Far in 2016 compares the patent development emphasis of major companies, with IBM coming out on top with 3,617 patent awards so far in 2016, according to a Quartz report. Patents are the bi-product of IBM’s focus on scientific research, as the report finds,

The company is in the middle of a painful reinvention, that sees the company shifting further away from hardware sales into cloud computing, analytics, and AI services. It’s also plugging away on a myriad of fundamental scientific research projects — many of which could revolutionize the world if they can come to fruition — which is where many of its patent applications originate. IBM accounted for about 1% of all US patents awarded in 2015.

Samsung claimed a close second (with just over 3,000 patents), and on the next rung down sits Google (with roughly 1,500 patents for the same period), Intel, Qualcomm, Microsoft, and Apple. Keep in mind though, that IBM and Samsung have been awarded more than twice as many patents as Google and the others, making it an unstoppable patent machine. You may well ask, what about revenue? They will get back to you on that score later.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 9, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

Cairo Authorities Perform Bitcoin Sting

September 8, 2016

Egyptian authorities refuse to let a 30-year-old dentist get away with trading in digital currency, despite there being no law on the books to prohibit the practice.  The Merkle informs us, “Egyptian Dentist Apprehended in Bitcoin Sting Operation in Cairo.” Reporter Traderman reveals:

According to today’s post on the facebook page of The Ministry of the Interior, Mr. Ahmed was captured with $13,900 in cash, as well as a cellular phone and a smart tablet that were used in the trading operation. Authorities setup Ahmed by contacting him about a potential deal on LocalBitcoins, where Ahmed was selling the digital currency for $570 per coin.

The investigation was carried out with the cooperation of the Cairo Department of Public Safety and the Cairo Security Directorate. Mr. Ahmed has apparently confessed to trading bitcoin, but it is unclear what specific law Mr. Ahmed was breaking, as there are no regulations on digital currencies in Egypt.

The write-up tells us manufacturer AMECO, based in Cairo, has been accepting bitcoin apparently unmolested since 2014. Traderman also notes that, as of their writing, about seven Egyptian bitcoin vendors operating on LocalBitcoins, all of whom seem to be running modest operations. It will be interesting to see whether law-enforcement continues to crack down on bitcoin within their borders, and, if so, what justification authorities may offer. Perhaps they will go so far as to pass a law.

Cynthia Murrell, September 8, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

Facebook vs. LinkedIn for Job Hunters

August 4, 2016

The article on Lifehacker titled Facebook Can Be Just As Important AS LinkedIn For Finding a Job emphasizes the importance of industry connections. As everyone knows, trying to a find a job online is like trying to date online. A huge number of job postings are scams, schemes, or utter bollox. Navigating these toads and finding the job equivalent to Prince Charming is frustrating, which is why Facebook might offer a happy alternative. The article states,

“As business site Entrepreneur points out, the role Facebook plays in helping people find jobs shouldn’t be surprising. Any time you can connect with someone who works in your industry, that’s one more person who could potentially help you get a job. Research from Facebook itself shows that both strong and weak ties on the site can lead to jobs… Well, weak ties are important collectively because of their quantity, but strong ties are important individually because of their quality.”

Obviously, knowing someone in the industry you seek to work in is the key to finding and getting a job. But a site like Facebook is much easier to exploit than LinkedIn because more people use it and more people check it. LinkedIn’s endless emails eventually become white noise, but scrolling through Facebook’s Newsfeed is an infinite source of time-wasting pleasure for the bulk of users. Time to put the networking back into social networking, job seekers.

 

Chelsea Kerwin, August 4, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

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